The Wonders of Xylitol for Cavity Prevention

When picking out chewing gum at the grocery store, many people notice the latest buzz word: Xylitol. What is it? Why is it good for you?


Every day we consume foods that contain sugar in some form or another, especially in processed foods. Unfortunately, bacteria that live in our mouths thrive on the sugar to provide them with energy needed to grow and multiply. The by-product of the sugar consumption of bacteria leads to the formation of acid, which attacks the hard enamel of our teeth, and forms cavities!

Xylitol is a natural sweetener extracted from fibrous plants like birch trees. Often times it is used in sugar-free gum, but can naturally be found in plants like strawberries and plums. Xylitol is now available in toothpastes, mouthwash, gums, mints, candies and even nasal spray! In the oral cavity, this chemical prevents bacteria from sticking to our teeth and keeps the acid level low. The saliva in our mouth stays stable an a neutral pH level and prevents bacteria from clumping up as white stuff that coats our teeth- called plaque! The important point to make about Xylitol is that it cannot be digested by bacteria to make energy, therefore inhibiting their food intake and protecting our teeth!

According to research conducted on Xylitol, it also helps restore damaged enamel by increasing calcium and phosphate salts in saliva, those elements needed to harden our body's natural mineral. Some people with damaged teeth due to hereditary defects, problems or history of eating disorders can use Xylitol to strengthen and repair calcium-deficient enamel areas that are weak. Thanks to the neutral pH and buffering capacity of the saliva, our teeth can stay healthy for years to come.

In a study where over 1,200 school children were asked to chew regular gum versus xylitol-containing gum two times a day for almost three years, results showed that the xylitol group had 73% fewer cavities than the regular gum-chewing group at the end of the study. Furthermore, kids who chewed regular gum had seen a dramatic rise in cavities compared to their counterparts.

It is important to mention that it doesn't matter how much xylitol a person consumes at any one time, it is the frequency or how often they use xylitol-containing products. According to the FDA and Xylitol organization, having 4-5 exposures daily is recommended whether chewing gum, brushing with Xylitol toothpaste or sucking on candies that have the natural sweetener.

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